During last year’s NBA championship run, Golden State Warriors shooting savant Stephen Curry began augmenting his training, massage and diet routine with an alternative body recovery method: Floating in a sensory-deprivation tank filled with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt.
“It’s an opportunity to just relax and get away from all the stress on court and in life but it obviously has medical benefits with the salt,” Curry said in an interview with ESPN, who accompanied the NBA’s reigning MVP and his teammate, Harrison Barnes, to their float center of choice, the Reboot Float Spa in San Francisco. “I have a very clear head when it’s done, and it shows in the days after floating. It gives me a nice boost of focus and perspective. The more I do it, the more I get from it.”
ESPN credits the Warriors’ success to “floating, the practice du jour of the wellness world,” and they’re not alone. Invented in 1954 by John C. Lilly as a fast track to meditation that simultaneously decompresses the spine and releases tension in muscles as the salt’s magnesium sulfate absorbs into the body, floating has made its way to a storefront on 43rd & Bryant.
Opened in April, Float Foundation (floatfoundation.net) is tucked into a busy intersection whose noisy neighbors include Clara Barton Open School, the Golf Hospital, Piccolo restaurant, two hair salons, and the steady hum of cars, buses, airplanes and one of the busiest bike paths in the city. But Float Foundation provides respite from a noisy world, and I speak from experience.
I took in my first float recently, and I’m here to echo Curry’s hosannas for the healing. My 60-minute float (an introductory 60-minute float at Float Foundation costs $49 and an introductory 90-minute float is $59) provided me with the perfect meditation environment (the only sound is your breath and your fading mind chatter) and made my biking and basketball muscles feel almost new again. Bikes? Buses? For all I knew I was on the moon, or bobbing on the ocean, and as I write this, my mind feels sharper. I can’t wait to float again, and again.
“Ninety-nine percent of people come out and say it’s amazing, and I remember that’s how I felt the first time I did it, and I wanted to share that feeling,” said Float Foundation owner T.J. Stalzer, whose day job is with Fabcon Precast, a wall panel manufacturer in Minneapolis. “Every float is different. I work a lot on the computer so I have a lot of neck and shoulder stuff going on, and the first time I got out of the tank I felt rejuvenated and the everyday aches and pains were gone and I felt relief and less anxiety. I just felt clearer, sharper, a little bit more connected, and a different sort of awareness that was really pretty profound.
“The more you do it, it becomes more of a practice. It’s just like meditating. If you get in a routine with your practice, you get into that zone. I try to do it once a week, sometimes twice.”
“Physically, it lowers cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and adrenal levels in your blood,” he said. “Cortisol is stress so it’s physically taking stress out of your system. It physically and mentally refreshes you. Magnesium is essential for over 300 enzyme functions in the body, so it’s central for energy creation and all sorts of stuff, so you just get out of the tank feeling better because everybody’s deficient in magnesium.
“So you’re absorbing that, your body’s doing good things with it, and you just get out feeling great. The aches and pains pretty much go away. I’ve had people who’ve had back surgery and they couldn’t put on their own socks, and they leave here and they can put on their socks again or they can walk without a cane, and they just rave about how much of a better quality of life they can have through a non-narcotic type of a treatment.”
Float Foundation isn’t the only floating game in town, but Stalzer takes pride in the spaciousness of the floating rooms, as opposed to his competitors’ more coffin-like pods. The rooms are big and private and come with showers and all the other amenities of a spa.
“I looked around and saw that most of what’s available are the smaller tanks, or pods, which there are a lot of preconceived fears around, with the claustrophobia,” said Stalzer, an Iowa native who studied business at Iowa State and received his master’s degree in business from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. “So my goal was to bring it to a wider demographic of people and try to combat some of those fears with a different approach. My rooms have glass doors and all of that that really open it up and make it seem a little less claustrophobic and a little bit more appealing.
“This is trending really well, the market conditions were right, and it’s something I really believe in. There are a lot of things you could make money on, but you’ve got to feel good about it, too, and this fits that. I feel like I could make a successful business out of this and bring a benefit to people.
“It’s kind of having a resurgence. There was a time when it was peaking, and during the AIDS epidemic people were scared of [baths in] public spaces, but now people are remembering that there are so many great benefits. Now that we’ve learned more about HIV, there’s a lot less fear around public spaces and there’s also procedures around sanitation and cleaning that are followed.
“There’s somewhere around 450 float centers around the United States, and our business has been growing steadily since April. July was our best month. The way things are trending, I feel really good about where we’re going.”
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in South Minneapolis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org